Back in early June, the Sault Pride and Pridefest Committee let the community know that Pridefest 2020 was being cancelled as an effort to keep our community safe and healthy with concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
The hope then was that they would be able to plan some type of Pride celebration event for Sault Ste. Marie's LGBTQ2SI community, even if on a smaller scale.
“The great deal of the planning and fundraising that goes into Pridefest just wasn’t feasible with the restrictions regarding non-essential outings that were in place for a number of months,” says Linsay Ambeault, coordinator for the event.
“It’s absolutely disappointing as this year would be the 7th Pridefest,” she says.
“Even more so than just the events themselves, the presence of Sault Pride has long served as a beacon to those folks who may not be able to live openly as LGBTQ+, youth who are just discovering themselves, families who want to show support for a loved one, or people like myself, who work with LGBTQ+ clients and want to actively demonstrate my support.”
Ambeault notes that having visibility in the community allows people to see that there is acceptance and that there is a sizeable LGBTQ+ population in the community.
In order to keep up some of that visibility, the committee came up with an alternative to the public event.
“Our main initiative this year has been printing and distributing lawn signs throughout the community, says Ambeault.
“This was an idea we had to maintain that visibility and presence that could be facilitated with social distancing in place.”
The lawn signs the committee created are similar in size to the ones the community used to commemorate students’ graduations.
“They were designed by our committee member Madison Poser and are very colourful and eye-catching,” says Ambeault.
“They’re in rainbow colours and display the Pridefest logo [also designed by Poser], the slogan ‘Connecting our Community’, and incorporate a red ribbon for those who’ve passed away from or live with HIV/AIDS.”
The lawn signs were being delivered earlier this week by committee members and volunteers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Each signs is being provided free of charge thanks to donations from the Welcome Friend Association [facilitators of Rainbow Camp], JA Surrogacy Consulting, Amore For Your Pleasure, as well as from proceeds from an online community fundraiser.
Ambeault hopes the signs are a way for people to make up for the cancellation of the committee’s main events, including one that Ambeault feels is personally important: Celebration of Life/AIDS Vigil.
Cancellations aside, Ambeault says the committee is energized by the recent announcement that City Council approved the installation of a rainbow crosswalk as a FutureSSM initiative.
“Those spearheading this initiative were kind enough to approach Sault Pride and ask for input on a location that would be significant to the local LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “The unveiling of the crosswalk hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it’s definitely a huge step for the community and something to look forward to and celebrate.”
Ambeault has no doubt that Pridefest and the Celebration of Life/AIDS Vigil will return next year when and if it is safe to do.
“Attendance has seen exponential growth most years and we expect that to increase,” she says.